By David Futch
The feud that could see an outsider (Rudy Martinez) unseat a Los Angeles City Council incumbent for the first time in 24 years all got started over … an over-sized patio?
That's what it looks like in the Martinez Vs. Jose Huizar race for Council District 14, judging from paperwork handed to L.A.Weekly by Martinez's camp. It shows that Martinez started getting a hard time for his restaurant upgrade plan from L.A. Building and Safety officials after he told Huizar he was running against him for City Council. Here's more:
First, to be clear, this is dirty tricks season. The two sides are surfacing all kinds of questionable and/or petty attacks on one another leading up to the Los Angeles March 8 election.
This could easily be a dirty trick, but it's still worth noting the facts.
In 2007, Eagle Rock businessman-turned-reality-TV-star Martinez applied to California Alcoholic Beverage Control for permission to assume the alcohol license for a Highland Park restaurant he'd purchased.
His application looked pretty strong, especially because his pal, Jose Huizar, the City Council member representing the 14th District, wrote a letter in support of the switch.
Five months later, with the switch stalled, Huizar's Deputy Chief of Staff Henry Casas wrote another letter to the ABC and attached a one-sentence letter on Building and Safety stationery, signed by inspector Henry Ojeda. Ojeda's letter said the city approved serving alcohol on Martinez' planned addition — specifically “a 16' x 20' patio behind the bar/restaurant.”
The friendship between Martinez and Huizar continued with emails back and forth about meeting for coffee.
That is, until early 2010 when, over a cup of joe, Martinez told Huizar he was going to run against him.
And what a coincidence!
A week later, an inspector from Building and Safety came to Martinez' restaurant and ordered Martinez to tear down the patio, which turned out to measure a larger 24-by-24 feet than approved.
A vendetta? Maybe.
“If you agree with Jose Huizar, you get what you want,” alleges George Gonzalez, flack for Martinez' campaign. “If you're against Jose, you get fucked.”
Ouch. But let's be clear: Martinez, one of the stars of “Flip This House,” has been here before.
One episode of the house-flipping show depicts Martinez' crew building something without the right permit, then trying to make sure the inspector won't notice that their existing permit didn't cover the work.
On TV, the inspector never noticed that a brand spanking new set of concrete stairs led to the house's front door — and no paperwork.
City building inspector Mark Van Slooten says city policy prevents him from saying who issued the complaint against the upgrade of the restaurant patio (uh, Mr. Van Slooten, we doubt that this kind of secrecy from Building and Safety will actually hold up in court, so we'll do a California Public Records Act for the info).
But Van Slooten says nobody in Huizar's office or the mayor's office filed the complaint.
“That may be what Mr. Martinez thinks, but I never told him that,” Van Slooten says.
Martinez says the inspector he talked with was almost apologetic. “When he showed up he said there was a complaint from the police department, and I asked him who at the police department made the complaint,” Martinez says.
“He said he couldn't tell me, then he smiled. I'm either going to have to tear down the canopy or appeal.”
Or maybe Rudy Martinez should wait to see who wins the election. He might intimately know a new City Council member who could help him out.